Densho Digital Archive
Raechel Donahue and Garrett Lindemann Collection
Title: Donald Yamamoto Interview
Narrator: Donald Yamamoto
Interviewer: Raechel Donahue
Location: San Jose, California
Date: December 15, 2010
Densho ID: denshovh-ydonald-01-0004

<Begin Segment 4>

RD: Well, when you got to Heart Mountain, the community was already built? Do you remember when you got there?

DY: There was, it was essentially built, yes.

RD: Did you still have the churches yet and all of that, or was it just the barracks?

DY: The barracks weren't completely finished. The insides of the barrack, the finished barracks had what they call Celotex over the studs that kind of insulated you from the weather, and in some cases the Celotex on the ceiling were not placed yet, and they were eventually placed in there, gave you a little more privacy. You could hear things going on in the next room fairly easily.

RD: Well, perhaps that the Issei Japanese were --

DY: Pardon?

RD: Perhaps they thought the Issei Japanese would be used to the light walls. But as an American child you wouldn't be.

DY: No.

RD: Tell me about, do you remember the first snow at Heart Mountain?

DY: The first...

RD: Snow.

DY: It was the next day. We got there --

RD: Tell me the first snow was the next day.

DY: Yeah, the snow was the next day. We got there and we had our sunny California clothes to wear. It wasn't too cold at that time, it was kind of a novelty. But the snow did not come down like you see in a movie, nice little flakes falling down. It was mostly somewhat windblown.

RD: All that sideways snow?

DY: Yeah, partly sideways, yes. But it didn't snow very hard that first time.

RD: And then over the winter, it starts snowing usually in October around there.

DY: Yeah, they do.

RD: When did the novelty of the snow wear off?

DY: Not too soon because there was a lot of scrap lumber around and we made sleds. Of course, there was no hills right in the camp area, so one time there was a place not far from our block where we went, and it wasn't, the hill was not covered completely with snow. But with what snow there was and the gravels and the dirt, we were able to go down the hill. And after a couple of runs, my sled caught some rocks underneath where I had the steel runners, and while we were there, these military police vehicles came by and they, we had to get on the things, leave our sleds there, and they took us away somewhere, I don't know where. But eventually we were told that we were out of bounds. And I thought, "Out of bounds? Where's the out of bounds?" Anyway, the next day when we were released... we were released that same day, but the next day I walked along by the road by our barrack which was on the northern edge. There was a dirt road, and I looked on the other side of the dirt road and there were little stakes with piece of red cloth on it, and I guess we weren't supposed to pass that. And we left our sleds there, and we wanted them back, so we kind of walked through another block, and then all of a sudden we looked around and we went running out there, ran down the hill, grabbed our sleds, and we came back with our sleds again.

RD: You boys are fearless. Weren't you afraid that they were gonna shoot you or something?

DY: No, I didn't. I don't recall having any sort of talks like that.

RD: Without being afraid? Yeah, because I've asked everybody.

DY: Yeah. Because I remember when we were being picked up, there were some people, older folks, and a couple of the younger girls were up on top of the hill, and one of the little girls was crying, and I don't remember if they picked all those people up or not, because I'm pretty sure we were beyond the boundary that day, and [inaudible] was there. But then eventually the barbed wire went up pretty quick after that.

RD: Oh, that was before the barbed wire.

DY: Yeah.

RD: Was there a guard there the entire time that you lived there? Was there always a guard? Because some people told us that they stopped using the guards after a while.

DY: Well, at the beginning there were guards there, and eventually I guess they had to go to join the other fighting forces, so they left.

RD: Besides, if you escaped, where would you go? [Laughs] If you guys escaped from Heart Mountain, you wouldn't be able to get very far.

DY: [Laughs] Where would we go? There was nothing nearby besides probably the citizens of the local area would call the police or something, I don't know.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2010 Raechel Donahue and Garrett Lindemann and Densho. All Rights Reserved.